Republican Health Insurance Bill Threatens Billions in Special Education Funding

The legislation passed by the House of Representatives aims to cut Medicaid by $880 billion over ten years, and a relatively small but significant chunk of that money pays for special education services in schools.

The new law would cut Medicaid by $880 billion, or 25 percent, over 10 years and impose a “per-capita cap” on funding for certain groups of people, such as children and the elderly — a dramatic change that would convert Medicaid from an entitlement designed to cover any costs incurred to a more limited program.

AASA, an advocacy association for school superintendents, estimates that school districts receive about $4 billion in Medicaid reimbursements annually. In a January survey of nearly 1,000 district officials in 42 states, nearly 70 percent of districts reported that they used the money to pay the salaries of health care professionals who serve special education students.

Republicans say federal health programs must be restructured to curb their soaring costs — the biggest driver of projected budget deficits — and force a smarter allocation of limited resources.

But in a letter sent to top lawmakers this week, a coalition of school educators and advocacy organizations said such efforts would force states to “ration health care for children.”

The advocates argued that under the House bill, the federal government would transfer the burden of health care to states, which would result in higher taxes, eligibility cuts or curtailed services for children. And they said that schools would have to compete for funding with other entities, like hospitals and clinics, that serve Medicaid-eligible children.

The ability of school systems to provide services mandated under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act would be strained. The law is supposed to ensure that students with disabilities receive high-quality educational services, but it has historically been underfunded.

“School-based Medicaid programs serve as a lifeline to children who can’t access critical health care and health services outside of their school,” said the letter sent this week by the Save Medicaid in Schools Coalition, which consists of more than 50 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and the School Superintendents Association.

It is time for all concerned about children with special needs to contact their Senators and make sure that this cut to the most vulnerable children is eliminated. When Congress mandated that school districts include children with disabilities, it promised to pay 40% of the costs. It has never come close to fulfilling that promise. This cruel cut by the House of Representatives would shift even more of the burden for a Congressional mandate to the schools.

from novemoore http://ift.tt/2qzls3D

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